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Uber, Airbnb Offer Their Help to Fire Victims: California Update

Joe Ryan
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Uber, Airbnb Offer Their Help to Fire Victims: California Update

(Bloomberg) -- Much of California is without electricity, and hundreds of thousands have evacuated as violent windstorms fan wildfires across the state. PG&E Corp. has been restoring electricity to more than 3 million people blacked out this weekend in the state’s largest deliberate outage yet to prevent falling power lines from sparking more fires. But the relief will prove fleeting.

Powerful winds are forecast to hit the state again Tuesday, prompting utilities to warn of more blackouts. All the while, fires are spreading north of San Francisco and near Los Angeles. Time stamps are New York time.

Uber Offers Rides, Airbnb Hosts Offer Housing for Wildfire Evacuees 6:55 p.m.)

Airbnb Inc. is offering to help people forced out of their homes by the wildfires find temporary housing. The San Francisco-based company is also asking hosts to consider making their places available to victims. More than 500 hosts have so far opened their homes to evacuees for free, according to the company.

Uber Technologies Inc. is, meanwhile, offering two free rides -- of as much as $20 each -- to and from evacuation centers in the Sonoma County and Los Angeles areas.

Millions Left in Dark by PG&E, Only Seven Filed Complaints (5:37 p.m.)

The unprecedented planned blackout that left millions of Californians in the dark earlier this month had only seven people filing complaints with state regulators against utility PG&E Corp.

Those came from costumers wanting the bankrupt company to pay for a generator, asking for credit during the blackout period or complaining they didn’t receive notifications prior to the shutoff. Some were just asking why power had been cut and when it would be restored.

PG&E’s Suppliers Dogged by New Wildfire Risks (4:11 p.m.)

It was not a good day for companies that sell power to PG&E Corp. Clearway Energy Inc., Consolidated Edison Inc. and NextEra Energy Partners LP all own power plants that deliver electricity to the California utility giant. They all tumbled Monday amid renewed concern that fires ravaging the state may disrupt PG&E’s bankruptcy process.

PG&E’s January bankruptcy filing resulted in technical defaults in several of its contracts with plants that sell it power. While PG&E has said it plans to honor those power-purchase agreements, that may become a challenge if it faces additional liabilities connected to fires this month in its territories.

PG&E Power Line Probed in Milpitas Fire (3:23 p.m.)

Fire officials in the Silicon Valley town of Milpitas told PG&E they’re investigating whether one of its fallen power lines caused a blaze that damaged four homes, the company said in a statement. PG&E discovered a downed wire near the fire at about 9:30 p.m. local time Sunday. There were no injuries.

Dangerous Smoke Hits California (1:41 p.m.)

San Francisco smells like a fireplace. Smoke from Northern California wildfires drifted across the bay Monday morning, shrouding the skyline. Commuters walked through the city’s transit center wearing face masks -- in some cases, even adding masks for additional protection.

It’s worse across the bay, where Oakland has the fourth-worst air in the U.S. and volunteers have been handing out masks to the city’s homeless. Some riders on Bay Area Rapid Transit trains were wearing them as well. And earlier Monday, to the east of Los Angeles, Riverside has the most hazardous air in America.

PG&E Equipment Probed as Cause of Another Fire (1:29 p.m.)

PG&E filed a report with state regulators saying a fallen power pole and transformer may have ignited a fire in the San Francisco suburb of Lafayette Sunday. The blaze forced evacuations and destroyed a tennis club.

PG&E Issues ‘All Clear’ to Check Lines (12:17 p.m.)

PG&E issued an “all-clear” for 6,000 workers to start inspecting lines and ensure they’re safe to transmit electricity. All the while, it’s priming its customers for the next round of blackouts.

The next outages will include the Bay Area and regions east of Sacramento, according to a map of the potential shutoff. The footprint appears slightly smaller than the blackout over the weekend, excluding areas north of Fresno.

L.A. Mayor Warns Anyone in Fire Path to “Leave” (12:07 p.m.)

As fires rip through the state, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti urged residents to obey evacuation orders. “Leave,” Garcetti said at a news conference Monday morning. “The only thing you cannot replace is you and your family. So get your loved ones, your pets and leave.”

Clearway Shares Slide Following Wolfe Downgrade (10:23 a.m.)

Clearway Energy fell the most in intraday trading since mid-January after Wolfe Research downgraded the Global Infrastructure Partners-backed renewables company over PG&E-related risk. “There could be more concerns due to the new fire claims,” Wolfe analysts said in a note

PG&E Bonds Plunge on Fears of New Fire Woes (8:52 a.m.)

PG&E Corp. bonds plummeted as wildfires spread in California, sparking fears of more disaster-related liabilities for the already-bankrupt power company. The company’s 5.8% unsecured bonds due in 2037 fall as much as 15 cents on the dollar to 88.5 cents Monday, per Trace data.

L.A. Fire Prompts More to Flee (8:15 a.m.)

A brush fire that’s burned more than 400 acres north of Santa Monica prompted evacuations Monday morning in the Greater Los Angeles area.

The Getty Fire erupted a little before 2 a.m. local time on Monday west of Interstate 405, and remains a “very dynamic situation,” according to a notice on the Los Angeles fire department’s website at 5:10 a.m. local time. The mandatory evacuations affected residents including Los Angeles Lakers basketball star LeBron James.

Winds Keep Fire Threat Intact (7:38 a.m.)

Dry winds will whip California’s fire-scarred landscape through at least Thursday with little letup in the interim.

Critical and extreme danger will continue at both ends of California, where Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a statewide emergency. Fires have driven more than 200,000 people from their homes and the threat of further breakouts have caused utilities to cut power to about 2.3 million. While PG&E Corp. began restoring electricity late Sunday, the company warned that another round of gusts could spur more blackouts.

--With assistance from Brian Eckhouse, Jeremy Hill and Nic Querolo.

To contact the reporter on this story: Joe Ryan in New York at jryan173@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Lynn Doan at ldoan6@bloomberg.net, Dan Reichl

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